“It was about eleven o'clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark little clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn't care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.”
― Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep
That is, and will probably always be, my favorite opening to a book. Raymond Chandler started writing late in life, but when he did hit the ground, he hit it running.
The Big Sleep's opening lines do it all. They put you, the reader, in a specific time and place, and they introduce not only the protagonist, but his unique voice. The book is a wonder, and if you haven't read it, you should. Even if you're not a fan of detective fiction -- the writing is just that good.
Douglas Adams wrote one of my other favorite opening lines.
"In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move." -- from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Finally, Jim Butcher, from Blood Rites:
"The building was on fire, and it wasn’t my fault."
Of course these are just three examples from a fields of possible millions.
What are your favorite opening lines? I thought it might be fun to swap a few in the comments section. Heck, we might all discover a few new great books that way.
One last thing -- I'm going to be a guest on PAIRANORMAL this Friday night, at 10 PM EST (9 PM CST for my local friends). PAIRANORMAL is an internet radio talk show focusing on all things weird, paranormal, or just plain out there. Who will play the role of the skeptic? Who will assume the mantle wide-eyed true believer? Click LISTEN LIVE on the TMV Cafe webpage at 9 PM CST Friday night and find out!
You can also hop in the chat room and comment live while the show airs. Stop by and say hello!